Life's good when I am listening to a great book.
Lionel Shriver is able to beautifully portray the complexities of parenthood. His understanding of the psyche of the mother is astounding and compelling. I identified with the woman and found myself often thinking, "I've thought that before but could never have put it into words." This book is an interesting study and well crafted story of parenting and of marriage/family dynamics while providing an interesting perspective on the development of a "bad seed" child.
It was beautifully and bravely written.
The voice of the mother, who is the narrator and main protagonist was sad and strong and honest.
Coleen Marlo was incredible—as though she'd written the book herself.
I would not want to listen to this book again, but only because it is an incredibly sad and disturbing book. With that said, I do not regret the purchase! I recommend listening to the book and then following up by watching the film starring Tilda Swinton. The side-by-side reveals a great deal about the American culture of violence. I tore through this audio book and wanted to talk about it with everyone I know.
This book was similar to Gone Girl. It's a thriller that relies heavily on the differing points of views of the main characters. Like with Gone Girl, the reader has to continuously question what is real and who is telling the truth.
The entire story is told from the mother's point of view. She is not a typically endearing protagonist. I think the voice performance was truly fantastic. I felt deeply connected to the character throughout the audiobook.
This is definitely in the top 3. The story isn't action packed, so if that's what you are into, you won't find it here. But you will be reeling from start to finish. A LOT happens and it's a lot to take in. Excellently written and performed.
This book made me gasp several times. It's somewhat shocking, but very timely and relevant to today's society. You find yourself completely engrossed in this woman's life.
If you're pregnant or about to have a kid...you might not want to listen to this.
Oh, I've been waiting to write this review. This book grabbed hold of me and did not let go until the very end. I could write an essay about some of the subtleties in the characters here; perhaps even a book, but I'll stick to some of the basics.
Kevin is not a happy child. From the beginning, he seems to resent not only his distant mother and overweening father, but life in general. As Shriver shows us the progression of Kevin's life in tandem with a growing understanding of his mother, Eva, the parallels between the two become ever clearer. The two enter into a war of sorts, a battle of strong wills for not only Kevin's destiny but the destiny of the family itself. Kevin's escalating, increasingly unspeakable acts provide the impetus that drives the story forward, but the plot is almost incidental to this book. I stress almost, because a sole judgment of the plot misses the elements that make this book so extraordinary.
It's all about theme and character. Yes, the central question of this book seems to be about whether a killer is born or created, ultimately demurring on the answer itself, but such a facile analysis misses the layers of complexity that Shriver weaves in attempting to answer that question. More than once Shriver intimates that Eva and her son are not so dissimilar; the key to understanding this is in a passage where Eva states that women internalize their rage while men visit it upon the world. Eva is an angry, rage-filled woman with a fury very much the equal of her son's fury, she just expresses it in a different manner, though sometimes we see the equal of Kevin's expressions, such as when she rails against the mundane qualities of everyday life.
Kevin's father Franklin is an ineffectual man who lives in a constant haze of denial. It becomes clear that he attempts to plaster the world's disappointments and flaws over with rose-colored cellophane, seeing everything - save for his wife's increasing fear of and frustration with their son - as benign. It's little wonder that Kevin's fury toward him is even stronger than his anger toward his mother. He doesn't even hide that rage particularly well, but his father misses the insincerity time and time again, until it's too late.
The theme here is a child who may have been born damaged in some emotional capacity but who never receives the attention that he may have needed to overcome that issue. Both parents were far too focused on their own needs, projecting their wants and insecurities onto the damaged child. Make no mistake, though, that Kevin is also a monster, and the only true innocent in this whole Greek tragedy is the daughter Celia, who ends up getting far worse than she ever deserved.
I hated just about all of the characters on some primal level, but I couldn't look away. The whole thing formed such a perfect storm of dysfunctional family dynamics and maladaptive psychology that it's hard to imagine it ending in any other way. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Putting aside the potentially disturbing aspects of this story in relation to recent events, I would absolutely recommend it, especially in the audio format.The plot, which tracks the growth and development of a deeply flawed (sociopathic?) child from birth through high school, is unique, not alone for the fact we see it all through the eyes of a mother who somehow manages to see her own son for exactly what he is.One wonders how any mother could survive this insight. The desperate need to understand drives the reader through the book along with her, as she and her son hurtle towards an inevitable conclusion.The unique energy of the book is that like the reader, Eva seems quite aware that tragedy awaits, although she does not no how, or precisely why. The need to find out drives reader and narrator inexorably forward.It is a story that calls out to you when you are forced to put it down even for a few hours.As a result, I listened to all 14+ hours (more with some inevitable backtracking) in well under a week. Add to that one of the best performances I've heard on Audible, and I would consider it a "must listen!"
In it's biting prose, it easily outstrips Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" or Donna Williams' "Somebody Somewhere." In it's emotional impact, it compares favorably with Dave Pelzer's "A Child Called It."If it seems strange that the only books I could compare it to are actual biographies of children with emotional and/or psychological problems, that is exactly my point.The combination of the unique narrative style, the depth and realism of the story and the world-class reading of Ms. Marlo combine to put this book light years ahead of everything Jodi Picault has written, most especially "House Rules." The similarity in subject matter is striking, and yet the two books are worlds apart.
I have not listened to Ms. Marlo, but I have every intention of mining her other performances. I found her to be absolutely on par with the best that Audible has to offer.
The unfortunate truth is that as a mental health professional, I have done the equivalent of taking Kevin out to dinner many times.I find the character of Eva spellbinding and unique, and I would certainly enjoy continuing the "dialogue" of the book further with her.
To return again to the issue of current events: I would say that if you were emotionally impacted by the current events regarding school shootings in the news, I would suggest putting off this book a while.
By virtue of it's incredible depth and clarity, it has the potential to -greatly- magnify any emotional reactions you have had to real-world tragedy. I stand by my assessment of the book on its own merits, but I feel compelled to add that this week, in the wake of a real life tragedy, there were parts that had me in tears - not only for the shock of these fictional but all-too-real events, but also by virtue of the incredible emotional quality of Ms. Marlo's performance.
I have to confess that I am only part way through this novel, but I was so intrigued by this book that I went to my library site, in order to read author's notes and published reviews. The author is actually Margaret Ann Shriver, (she simply prefers the use of the name Lionel). As was noted by another reviewer, it seems improbable that a man could have so acutely voiced what it is like to give birth, and the ambivalent emotions that so often entail and follow the experience. A highly recommended novel. The narrator is spot on, and once I have finished the book, my next task will be to watch the movie. I remember that the movie was quite well reviewed, but I find it hard to believe that it could be better than the book. Of course, for me I find that a novel is almost always enhanced by its narration. The nuances of character and plot are fleshed out by its narrator, and this book is a case in point.
I first have to say that when I started listening to this book, I found Eva's affected and verbose manner of speech to be overwhelmingly off-putting. Within the first 15 minutes I stopped listening and reread the reviews to see if it would be worth trying to slog through. One reviewer specifically addressed this, saying it was Eva's character and not Shriver's writing style. With that in mind, I continued listening from that perspective. I'm so glad I did.
I didn't 'like' any of the characters; Franklin was especially frustrating. And, although I could foresee one of the major plot twists (probably because I read too many reviews), the performance and story grabbed me. The ending (her last conversation with Kevin) clicked the whole thing into place, kind of like when the ring drops in the Sixth Sense. I know I'm being vague, but I don't want to ruin the experience for any future readers.
This book left an impression on me. I can't love it in a warm-fuzzy way, but it sticks with me. I was so intrigued by the book, that I was naturally interested in how it might be made into a movie. This isn't meant to be a review of the movie, so I'll just say the movie was a huge disappointment in my opinion. I hope if you've watched the movie, you'll still give the book a chance.
I have tried three times to listen to this book - I am about four hours in and I just cant do it. This is about the 30th book I have listened to this year and the first one I have ever not finished. I find the writing pretensions, arrogant and annoying. Maybe this is the intention, if so it is done so expertly that it has resulted in me being unable to listen to another word! I am normally a pretty generous reviewer - not a picky reader.
I have only just started listening to audiobooks, but I found this one to be very well done although the performance was a little inconsistent.
I found the narrator (Eva) to be a really compelling character. I was put off by her at times, but gradually drawn in by her. She appears to be cold and unattached but this also gives her the ability to have a kind of clear-eyed view of her son that no one else does. As the book goes on, you also find out why she often sounds so unattached -- she has to be.
I thought she did a fantastic job of evoking Eva's voice. It really brought her alive as a character.
We Need to Talk About Kevin's Mother
While I think the performer generally did a great job, there were time when she was voicing the character of Kevin that she slid into a southern accent.. not a deep South drawl but a definitely a bit of twang. I found that odd for a character who is born in NYC and grows up in Rockland County, NY. I don't remember any characterization of Kevan as affecting a southern accent and the use of the accent wasn't consistent. I found it distracting during longer blocks of Kevin's speech.